What do you do when Mr. Darcy has totally blown your mind? Go on a stress walk.
There’s nothing like country air and greenery to lift the spirits and clear the mind! Elizabeth thought to herself. Wait! What’s that behind that tree? It looks like a—man. Well as long as it’s not… nuts. It is. It’s Mr. Darcy. PERFECT. Just the person I wanted to avoid. Maybe he didn’t see me. Maybe if I hide behind this bush, he’ll go away. Maybe--
*Cue Elizabeth, attempting to nonchalantly claw her way out of a shrub*
“I have been walking in this grove for some time in the hopes of meeting you. Please do me the honor of reading this letter.”
Darcy hands her a thick envelope and abruptly stalks off.
What the what?
Curiosity tingling through her veins, Elizabeth tears open the letter with reckless abandon.
What have we here? Bitterness? Kindness? Best to cease speculation and get the overthinking over with.
Fear not. I have no plans to make you vomit by bringing up the subject that was so abhorrent to you when we last met. This letter is purely to allow me to correct your understanding of my character and see that justice runs its due course. I stand accused of two things:
SO MUCH RAGE. SO MUCH. Ice princess indeed. You know nothing of my sister, you toolbag. NOTHING! Elizabeth fumed, but curiosity compelled her to keep reading.
My further objections to their marriage include the very reasons I gave you last night; while the situation of your mother’s family is disagreeable, the total want of propriety betrayed by your mother, your three younger sisters, and even occasionally your father convinced me it was not a good match. I am sorry to offend you with these words, but you must consider that in this criticism also lies a compliment to both the elder Bennet sisters. Your grace and decorum amidst the chaos of your family render your conduct that much more exceptional. That aside, after observing your family that evening I was determined to save Binley from an unfavorable marriage. I do not regret any of the actions I have taken to this end, with the one exception of concealing your sister’s presence in London from him. That may have been a little too douche-y… But what I have done, was done for the best. I have nothing more to say and no further apologies to offer.
As for the matter with Wickham, because I have no idea what he has specifically accused me of I can only refute his statements by giving you his whole history with my family. Wickham’s father was a good man, who worked on Pemberley estates. My father was so pleased with his service, that he bestowed his kindness upon Wickham, paying for him to attend Cambridge in the hopes that Wickham would make the church his profession. When my father died, he left Wickham a legacy of one thousand pounds and expressed his desire that I should promote his advancement and grant him a family living if his profession allowed for it. Wickham’s own father died soon after my own father.
At this point, Wickham decided that rather than waiting for his inheritance, he would prefer a cash advance. He decided to study law. I hoped he was sincere, and since I was certain that he should NOT make the church his career, I granted him that request. I assumed that the matter was settled, and I wouldn’t have to worry myself with future dealings with Wickham. I did not hear from him for three years. When I did, go figure, the law ended up not being his calling and financially, he was in a bad way. However, I stood firm and told Wickham to be an adult and deal with his problems on his own.
Unfortunately, his and my definitions of dealing with an issue as an adult differ. Now I express circumstances that I would sooner forget. My own sister was left to the guardianship of Colonel Fitzwilliam and myself. A year ago she was taken from school and an establishment was formed for her in London and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, Mrs. Younge, to Ramsgate. Wickham also went. This was all according to his evil masterplan. He spent a great deal of time with Georgiana, and Mrs. Younge eventually convinced Georgiana that she was in love with Wickham and that the two should elope. My sister was but fifteen. A few days before the intended elopement I joined them unexpectedly. Georgiana confessed all, thank God. Obviously I couldn’t make a public spectacle of the matter, so I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left immediately and Mrs. Younge was relieved of her charge.
This is a full account of my dealings with Mr. Wickham. Should you require additional testimony, you may look to Colonel Fitzwilliam. If you hate me so much that my assertions hold no weight, you may rely upon him to tell you the truth of the matter. I shall endeavor to get this letter to you this morning. I will only add, God bless you.
With that, the “big news bombshell” letter had officially overwhelmed Elizabeth. She had so many feelings that she didn’t know what she felt, but inevitably they were burbling to the surface of her brain as she read Darcy’s words.
His assertions regarding her sister left her wishing that his laundress would lose the mate to every single pair of his socks and that his shoes would forever give him blisters. He expressed no remorse for ruining her dearest sister’s happiness: To Lizzie’s mind, this was completely unforgivable.
Then she read his account of Wickham, and the more that she read, the more it began to make sense, and frighteningly so She started by telling herself “This can’t be true. Darcy is full of lies. Even now, he’s doing his very best to ruin Wickham’s life and reputation. Once a scumbag, always a scumbag!” However, the mix of her experiences and Darcy’s accounts helped her to piece together a clearer understanding of Wickham’s character, and she began to see more of the monster behind the suave, well-spoken man in uniform. Wickham had been so convincing when he had spoken of how the Darcy family had treated him; Lizzie had been thoroughly taken in by his charms.
Balderdash. She thought. If he had lied so easily to me, by all logic, Darcy’s story becomes more and more plausible.
And yet… to Lizzie’s mind, the business regarding Miss Darcy did require confirmation from Colonel Fitzwilliam. Yet, the more she thought about how that conversation would begin, the more she realized that she had no desire to put either her or the Colonel through THAT awkwardness.
Looking back on her first meeting with Wickham at Mr. Phillips, Lizzie was finally struck with the impropriety of Wickham’s confessions to her, when at that time she was a complete stranger to him. She realized that until Darcy left town, she was the only one who had heard Wickham’s account, but as soon as the Darcy family had left, the entire town had heard of how Wickham was “mistreated.” She then realized that she had been blinded by her first encounter with Wickham and had allowed his account to affect the manner in which she interacted with and perceived Darcy.
Thinking of either gentleman left Lizzie uncomfortably aware of her own prejudices, vanity, pride, and absurd partiality. She began muttering to herself maniacally as she walked furiously through the countryside, obsessively poring over the letter.
“I have been a complete jerk. I’m a huge jerk! I, who prided myself on my discernment… how humiliating! But now that I think about it, I probably deserved it... Love blinded me but it was my vanity that put the final nail in the coffin of my sense. I was pleased with the affection of one and displeased with being neglected by the other. Until this moment, I never knew myself.”
She read and re-read the letter. Each line seemed to give her a new embarrassing epiphany regarding the conduct of herself and her family. Eventually, mind buzzing and feet weary, Lizzie made her way home, determined to fake cheerfulness for the sake of her family, only to discover that first Darcy, and then Colonel Fitzwilliam had called for her in her absence. Darcy had stayed only a few minutes, but Colonel Fitzwilliam had waited for her for at least an hour. Lizzie feigned regret at missing him, but truthfully, she was filled with relief. She had too much to process. The only thing she could think of was her letter.
This week's chapters were written by Kylie Rose, who will be playing Lydia Bennet in our upcoming production. Read her bio here.
NEXT WEEK: Further attempts to NOT strangle Mr. Collins while he rambles, and A Jangley Update!
Caitlin Lushington is the Co-Artistic Director of the Enso Theatre Ensemble, a teacher, director, and actress. Sometimes she works too hard, sometimes she forgets things, and she strives to put the car keys back in the same place every time. She drinks tea every morning from her TARDIS mug and "Mr. Tea" diffuser. She loves the morning and wishes she had a photographic memory, so she could remember the names of every person she meets.